GUEST COMMENTARY: Accomplishments add up for Alaska
As I reflect on this past year as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m proud of the national policies we advanced, and the many ways those policies will benefit Alaska. I’m also proud of the process we used to achieve success and the Alaskans who helped pave the way.
I liken our committee to the “little engine that could.” In a Congress not often marked by cooperation, we have bucked the trend, gone to work, and delivered real results. That takes commitment to negotiating across the aisle in good faith. It may not be the easiest route to the finish line, but it has proven time and again to be the best way to get there.
The passage of a sweeping lands package that I authored with many of my colleagues is a case in point. One key provision, originally sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan, allows Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam War to receive land allotments the federal government promised decades ago.
Another expands and enhances sportsmen’s opportunities for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on public lands, including a directive to federal agencies to keep those lands “open unless closed” for a valid reason. We also provided needed routing flexibility for the Alaska gasline and new economic opportunities for communities such as Kake and Utquiagvik.
Our bipartisan process propelled the lands package through Congress, but it is the people behind the policy that ultimately make the difference. That’s why, in all of my work, I make sure to invite Alaskans to the table.
Nelson Angapak, Sr., was a tireless force in helping us move the Alaska Native Vietnam veterans’ allotment provision forward. Ethan Schutt with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Daniel Kirkwood with the Juneau Economic Development Council, and Mayor Harry Brower of the North Slope Borough are among the many Alaskans who have appeared before the committee to discuss our unique energy and lands issues.
Whether through formal testimony or work behind the scenes, Alaskans have played a significant role in shaping national policies that will bring benefits to our state.
Those policies include legislation I have written focused on mineral security, advanced nuclear, geothermal, energy efficiency, and cybersecurity, among many others. All told, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported more than 50 energy-related measures to the full Senate last year.
Our focus now is on combining many of those measures into a broader package to modernize our nation’s energy policy. It has been 12 years since Congress updated federal energy law, so it is long overdue.
We are also fortunate to have an administration that shares our views on energy and natural resources, and recognizes the contributions Alaskans can make. Both Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette have visited Alaska on numerous occasions. They understand us and are eager to partner with us to address needs and build prosperity across our state.
In July, I hosted Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Prince of Wales Island, where he heard from many Alaskans about the burdens imposed by the Roadless Rule. I was pleased when the administration agreed to write a state-specific rule for Alaska, and support the administration’s preferred alternative of a full exemption for the Tongass National Forest.
I am also very proud of the work we accomplished with the administration to help refill our Trans-Alaska Pipeline. From new projects in the NPR-A to an oil and gas program for the 1002 Area, we have put Alaska back on the map.
Thanks to the steps we are taking, the federal Energy Information Administration has increased its projection of Alaska oil production from 2031 to 2050 by 90 percent. IHS Markit, one of the nation’s leading energy consultancies, has restored the North Slope’s recognition as a “super basin” for future production.
2019 was a good year for Alaska on energy and natural resources policy. With Alaskans at the helm, I look forward to continued success in 2020.
Lisa Murkowski is the senior U.S. senator from Alaska.